About eight miles south of Lansing, the road descends into a bowl-shaped valley bisected by Wexford Creek that is home to one of Iowa’s oldest Catholic congregations. In 1850, the Reverend Thomas Hore led a group of 450 people out of Ireland to escape the potato famine. After reaching the US, they traveled from New Orleans up the Mississippi River to Arkansas, where many immigrants stopped and joined small Irish enclaves nearby. A few continued north to St. Louis with Father Hore. In spring 1851, he bought 2,000 acres in Allamakee County, then returned to St. Louis and accompanied 18 families to this valley. In short order they built a log church they called St. George. Father Hore returned to Ireland in 1858—he would die there a few years later—and nearby Trappists picked up his ministry. The log church burned down and was replaced by a frame church around 1858. It proved to be too small, so the parish built a stone church that was dedicated in 1870 as Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (1416 Great River Rd.; 563.586.2150). This simple country church is simply beautiful, built of limestone quarried from nearby hills and surrounded by a cemetery on three sides and a hill on the fourth.
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